Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Mortal DicKslap

As I mentioned recently, I've been wasting a lot of time in Paragon. It's a blatant Smite copycat, and Smite's big gimmick was giving the AoS concept a close up third person look. Both of them owe much to the RTS / FPS hybrid Savage 2, but where Savage 2 was a true FPS / RTS hybrid which featured large 20 vs. 20 player teams, actual resource control, building placement, commanders giving players orders and other RTS staples in addition to its FPS gameplay, these are just ... eeeugh... "MOBAs" - the idiotically oversimplified version of the Aeon of Strife concept popularized by Defense of the Ancients and League of Legends. AoS maps started in Starcraft, and were based around controlling a single unit within a larger two-sided strategy conflict. They should never have devolved to moronic slapfests, but that's what DotA was and every commercially marketed AoS game since then has rebranded itself an "arena" instead of a warzone, copycatting DotA's simplicity.

Smite sinks a level lower, removing even much of DotA/LoL's remaining player choice, planning and tactical thinking in favor of degrading the genre to a 5v5 version of Mortal Kombat or other console fighting games. Paragon copycats Smite and is deliberately aimed at console gamers, but despite lacking entertaining mythical figures it improved a bit on some of Smite's combat basics. Now, that patch I linked is supposed to be their big December popularity push. Coming out on Dec. 6, I'm guessing it prefaces some kind of advertising blitz for the holiday season. Don't give a crap. It's what's inside that counts, and what's inside is... less.

5v5, 3 lanes, no control over strategic elements, no dependence on resource control, idiotic player advancement based on individual kill count dick-measurement instead of actual teamwork. That's the MOBA formula, a moronic shadow of the complete strategy games the AoS concept should have birthed. You'd think they couldn't dumb it down even more. So guess what the new patch advertises. Small map. Shorter cooldowns. Faster movement. Slappier slapfest. Like every game, Paragon will only get more dumbed down, more simplified as it goes along, but I would've though they'd at least wait until they officially declare themselves out of "beta" before shrinking their product, catering only to inbred rednecks mashing buttons on their eksbawkses. Investing time in moving to a particular lane and having to wait until you use your abilities were some of the last traces of actual frontal lobe activity in the whole "MOBA" denigration of team strategy games. Aaaaand now they're gone.

Don't even THINK about increasing team and map size. 7v7 complexity would break your drooling troglodytic customers' brains.

There were only two games I can remember which took the AoS concept in the correct direction.
The Warcraft 3 map Eve of the Apocalypse.
Demigod, a 2009 game developed by (of all companies) Gas Powered Games before their otherwise well-deserved bankruptcy.

I can't dig up my old Warcraft 3 copy (nor do I want to) but I really need to see if I can't snatch myself some screenshots of Demigod and start putting them up. Every time I've seen a new AoS degenerate come out I've bought into it in the hopes of something better. Every time I've told myself they couldn't possibly degrade the team RTS concept any further. Every time I've somehow been surprised that they have, and Paragon's only the latest in a long chain. With every company tripping over themselves to cater to drooling cretins, we really should remember that the genre could be (and was, for brief times) taken in the opposite direction, that of increasing complexity, planning and teamwork.

Monday, November 28, 2016

No Illegal Taxation without Illegal Representation

And who'll deny that's what the fighting's all about?"

Pink Floyd - Us and Them

So. America's Trumped-up president wants to "deduct" the millions of people who supposedly voted illegally because he's never popular enough for his own tastes. Never mind that in all the years Republicans have been complaining about illegal immigrants voting, they consistently fail to actually produce enough of these to even field a football team much less skew an election. They're just absolutely convinced those hordes of illegal votes must be somewhere... anywhere - maybe ... even... right BEHINDJA!

Heheheh. Somewhere just now, Rush Limbaugh's jowls quivered fearfully for a moment and he doesn't know why. But hey, who doesn't love a good ghost story?

Look, people, you're talking about a country that can't even get its legal voters to vote, much less its illegal ones.

I guess a big part of the moral outrage over this imaginary crime has to do with taxes. A government should represent its taxpayers. The community's representatives should represent those working to boost the community's well-being. Those getting paid under the table aren't paying taxes. There's no reciprocation. Technically. Of course, neither do bloated parasitic vermin like Trump, but let's not get into that one. For me, this all just serves to remind me of the popular misconception of taxation. See, not all taxes are labeled as such. Not all governments are called governments.

Say you work in a factory making....oh, let's say forks. Each fork sells for a buck, 100 cents. There are ten employees and one boss. The employees get paid a certain amount per hour which works out to five cents per fork. The government steps in and taxes them one of those five cents. Ten knuckledragging mouthbreathers then wail and moan about high government taxes while their boss cheerfully pockets ten times their worth. Lather, rinse, repeat, through generation after generation of degenerate slobs belching insults at "da gummint" while never admitting that the real government oppressing them is the one they clock into for eight hours every single day of their miserable filthy lives.

Profit is illegal taxation.

Those illegal immigrants Trump wants you to hate instead of him? Those imaginary boogeymen against whom he divides you to conquer you? They are actually producing all the material goods by which you live your life. The boss taking all of your money in the office park is also taking all the profit off some poor schmuck choking to death in a paper mill in Buttsand, Mexico (*hint: not a real town) to make the paper you shuffle around your desk, and spending it all on his private villa in the Virgin Islands. Did the Buttsanders get to vote for your boss while he's trade tarriffing them to death? Donald Trump's reaction when Brexit went through was to glory in his increasing profits in Great Britain. Do Brits get to vote on Trump while their money's sinking into his pockets?

The government you should be overthrowing is that of the petty tyrants you bow to every single day of your life, those whose threats of starvation and homelessness underscore your every grudging measly paycheck, those profiting from your work day in and day out. Parasites like Trump who create nothing, who prevent anything from happening in society by holding money, the false representation of value, hostage in their overstuffed pockets. You're worried about illegal representation? Worry about the illegal taxation to which you submit from birth to death without even questioning.

Fucking retards.

Friday, November 25, 2016

V:tM - Bloodlines ! Opening Screen

"You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake
You are the same decaying organic matter as everything else"

The Dust Brothers - This is Your Life

Back in spring I threatened to launch into a long series of posts on the classic cRPG Vampire: the Masquerade - Bloodlines, after at long last it became available on GoG. I don't play pen-and-paper RPGs. That would require other people, and what can I say... I hover somewhere between Gangrel, Brujah, Tremere and Tzimisce in my personality. If I remember the kids playing RPGs back in high school, the activity attracts blatant Toreadors. Vade retro, thou over-social Satana! Aside from this computer adaptation, my only exposure to the World of Darkness roleplaying setting has come through offhand comments on game forums, webcomics and the much less inspired VtM: Redemption published a few years before it by a completely different developer. Along with certain gameplay elements, however, this setting numbers among Bloodlines' various features which make it such a useful reference point for other cRPGs.

The GoG version so far seems to run much more smoothly than the game did a decade ago. When Bloodlines shipped, it sadly earned much of its bad press for being a crash-tastically buggy mess. Even the opening scene was wrecked. The soundtrack was off from the animations (some of which didn't even play) and captions floated on and off the screen with not a care for their appropriate place or the length of time required for their perusal. Thus one of the greatest cRPGs ever made faceplanted even its grand entrance. Troika Games made three games, and this was (perhaps unsurprisingly for more than one reason) the last of them.

But that part's in the past. The GoG version manages to fix the timing issues in the opening cinematic as well as some of the half-animated animations during the training mission. I take it from this that it's been rendered appropriately playable on the whole and I won't have to spend every post about the game bitching about glitching.

As soon as I fired it up though I knew I'd have to do a pre-amble here. A post zero, so to speak.
That's the first loading screen. It pops up randomly during zone transitions during the game, sure, but most importantly that's the first screen you see before the game even starts, while loading the character selection window.
The purveyors of escapist fantasy preface their product, before allowing you to even create yourself, by slamming you full in the face with a jab against escapism. Good fucking Antediluvians, are you starting to wonder how these people managed to stay in business as long as they did?
I love it.
It's exactly the way I would've started it, were I inspired enough to ever create anything worthwhile.

More relevantly for you, dear reader, it sets the tone. Bloodlines may have come out in 2004, but its source material was a staple of 1990s goth teen subculture. It dates from a time when we off-brand humanoids still practiced that most crucial of soul-making skills, self-hatred. The world is shit... and so are you.

It strikes me that writing about Bloodlines won't be anything like doing ST:TNG episode reviews. TNG abided by a great many television storytelling conventions and tropes. Its stock characters ran the usual wide gamut. It's easy to jump into an episode and expect awkward smart guy to say awkwardly smart things and tough guy to say tough things, etc. Bloodlines is a more singular, focused project. More importantly, it's a mood piece. It's a Downward Spiral. There is no status quo, partly because it's a story-based game and partly because its source material hinges on a decidedly apocalyptic core concept. Its was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the age of Hale-Bopp and Y2K paranoia. It was. the age. of Gargoyl- errr, I mean it was the '90s.

Ah, well, but listen to me ramble on and on, talking to myself like some street-corner prophet.
More about Bloodlines some other time, and remember

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

10 Items or Less

"Life feels so easy, some days, it feels so easy..."
Ellen Allien - Sun the Rain

Maybe I find too many things worthy of complaint. Maybe I don't talk about the things I like enough. I'm a very negative person.
No, fuck that. The world's shit and I'm just not willing to pretend it isn't. I'm positive the world's negative. I'm positive you're all shit.

Anyway, I betray my snarling persona somewhat by my list of lycanthrope-approved movies. Besides escapist fantasies like Mirromask and apocalyptic ones like Fight Club, The Road or Melancholia, besides weird-ass forgotten yarns about loneliness in crowds like Elle est des notres that nobody else seems to even want to get, some of my favorite flicks are hopeful tales of interpersonal connection, of strong individuals bracing against each other to push through the world's stupidity. A decade and a half after I first watched it, the anime Whisper of the Heart with its self-made young heroine still ranks somewhere about the top of my list.

Today though I'm talking about 10 Items or Less. No, not the unrelated TV series by the same name. I mean the movie made a decade ago that almost nobody bothered watching. Morgan Freeman and Paz Vega wander Los Angeles to a melancholic Paul Simon soundtrack discussing life, the universe and everything. It mostly centers on the stereotypical actor's catchphrase "what's my motivation" or rather the attempt to dredge up some sort of motivation or driving force in life. For intelligent people I mean - not inbred degenerates working their minimum-wage jobs with puritan passion just to get on Geebus' good side for the Apocalypse. Features a minor two-line role for Jim Parsons before he became Dr. Sheldon Cooper, who I must once again stress bears no resemblance to me whatsoever.

I mentioned 10 Items or Less here at least once before, in the context of One Day, One Room proper endings to stories about meetings of independent minds. The movie's one of those painfully low-budget artsy affairs filmed in the back lots of local businesses for free advertising. Its celebrity appearance toward the end was a literal drive-by shooting. It boasted a grand total of one stunt. If you like those kinds of books, movies and comic strips where two characters just yammer back and forth at each other, then this is the flick for you! I'm told there's a long tradition of this sort of thing in theater, and very few of its over-indulgent incarnations are ever palatable, but 10 Items or Less certainly qualifies.

For one thing, it's funny. It strews enough visual gags and cheesy one-liners along the heroes' path to lighten the existential angst while offsetting it rather than diminishing it. It also properly times and delivers its more sentimental moments to render them memorably poignant rather than simply cloying. Most importantly, the two characters manage to come across as the sort of personalities who value their independence with their almost Noldorin displays of pride giving each other a run for their money. They play off each other well enough that even if you don't normally watch this sort of thing, their charming repartee will likely keep your interest.

So watch it. Think of it as an extremely slow power ballad.

At this point, the movie's central theme would demand I write my own list of ten. What ten things would you keep; what ten things do you like about the world? I might be tempted, were I playing to type, to even list the movie itself as one of them, but that sort of seems like cheating to me.

But honestly, I can't think of any. Trump just got elected. We're headed into that cavalcade of religious idiocy known as The Holidays. The top movie in the country is Ass. Errr, I mean some moronic Harry Potter spin-off or other. The SyFy channel's about to shit all over my favorite book. My local supermarket's all out of Code Red Mountain Dew.

Fuck the world. You want me to show up at the checkout with ten items? Stock something worth buying, humanity.

Monday, November 21, 2016

PoE's Instant Pocket Armies

This is my small group fighting Archmage Concelhaut in Pillars of Eternity.
This is that same group exactly one second later.

Notice anything different? Like maybe there's a lot more group?
From Baldur's Gate 2 onwards, through both NWN games and their expansions, these games have suffered from an over-reliance on quickslot items - the stuff your character keeps in his pocketses. In PoE the worst offenders were "figurines" or summoning items. While the minions they summoned weren't horribly powerful, their presence undermined one of PoE's best features, the melee engagement system by which your meat shields defend your spellcasters. Who needs a well-balanced front line when you can just conjure a dozen magic spiders to lock your enemies down while you pound away at them?

Obsidian said they wanted to allow players to create "themed" parties like all-ranger or all-paladin groups, which means offering players a lot of ways to duplicate the abilities of a particular class with any class, to cover the strategic demands of various encounters. Unfortunately this ends up watering down the class system on the whole. My party above consists of six different playable classes, but in practical terms they're all Summoners depending on their trusty pokemon to keep them safe. It harms player identity and agency.

The central issue is of course diminishing the repercussions for player actions. If a player makes an all-fighter group then runs into an encounter demanding a well-placed fireball, you've just denied your customer access to part of the content he purchased. Of course he could just roll a new character, but whining will nonetheless ensue. Hence fireball scrolls. I'm partial to spellcasters and my groups tend to be rather "squishy" so I end up carrying around instant pocket-armies.

This coddles players unnecessarily. If you are stupid, you should die. If I want to make a squishy robe-clad nerd army, then I should have to compensate for my weak points using abilities which I actively select over others, through active, purposeful player choice. There should be areas of the game where I declare defeat. PoE's figurines are instead blatant freebies. Anyone can choose Pikachu, at any time.

Much of what elevates partly-randomized open-ended games like Mount&Blade over more formulaic RPGs is the fact that you're expected to lose... sometimes. Depending on your player choices, there will be tasks you cannot complete. Too slow to chase down that group of raiders? Too squishy to wipe out the bandit hideout? Too reliant on cavalry to break through a row of pikemen or scale castle walls? Tough luck. Deal with it. Try something else.

Neither is this a problem specific to Pillars of Eternity by a long shot. I complained about the elemental summoning items in Neverwinter Nights 2 when that came out, and Dragon age: Origins made it much too easy to heal wounds without going back to camp and let you chug potions constantly. Baldur's Gate 2 filled your inventory with enough magic wands to outfit all of Hogwarts.

If RPGs are all about a player building up a character according to taste, then we really need to start dropping all these damn crutches. It's not enough to expect better players to handicap themselves by not using the freebies deliberately strewn before them. You should suffer for your failings.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

What's the Feminist Penalty for Apostasy?

"The dead are implicated
Implied but never stated
Carve me out those other words to live by, to live by
Yeah, mine's sterilized as well
I never used it, can't you tell?"

KMFDM - Ikons

Atheism is nothing in itself. It's the default position with regards to reality. It should require no definition or explanation. The greater goal must always be rationalism, a state of mind which takes atheism for granted, and atheist movements cannot surrender reason for the sake of a few meager deicides, a few small victories in the present. Alliances of convenience often prove most inconvenient in the long run, and if ever there was a long-term project, trying to instill sanity in the naked ape certainly counts.

Irrationalists will seek a cover of legitimacy for their self-serving doctrines by declaring a common enemy in current religious dogma and making strange political bedfellows of atheists and myth-busters desperate for allies. So atheists always have to be on the lookout for self-described antitheists peddling healing crystals and preaching universal one-ness and astrology, or animal rights activists insisting humans don't have souls but their pet parrots and macaques do, or dreamy-eyed romanticized Orientalism which, while dutifully attacking Christians will serenely sweep Mohammedan crimes under the blanket of anti-Western sentiment and turn a blind eye to the sadomasochistic side of Hinduism and its offshoots. We're not all one big happy family here on "the left" and not everything popularly labeled "liberal" is in truth freedom-loving or free-thinking.

Like most people, I was born into a religious society in which the existence of the almighty was taken for granted, imbibed as soon as we could understand speech from grandparents' fables and storybooks. Religious iconography adorned at least one wall in most houses and my heaviest, glossiest book in second grade was a children's bible. Then, around ten to twelve years of age, I became an apostate - not due to any violent trauma nor any singular moment of enlightenment, but simply because the lies with which I'd been raised gradually became apparent. It ranked as rather uneventful in the events of my early life, except for a lingering fear, a tightening of my shoulders whenever I entered or passed by a church that maybe, just maybe there had been something to all that babbling about devils and angels and I might spontaneously combust. Luckily the religious society in which I attained nihilism with regards to primitive sky-gods wasn't one of those where they behead you for your trouble... any more.

I quote a process familiar to most atheists. Very, very few are born into non-religious environments. Most of us must actively choose reality over convenient feel-good fantasy. No mere innocent ignorants, we, but apostates, and should wear the badge proudly. We struggled through the choking miasma of early indoctrination and came out the other side all the better for it.

Like most people, I was also born into a society which considers women "the fairer sex" and derides males as strong but also brutish, primitive and undeserving of empathy, much less sympathy, even while yoking them to the role of work-horse in the traditionalist family unit. I grew up with the primitive naked ape protectiveness of the tribe's females reinforced by centuries of chivalrous indoctrination to never hit a girl, always protect women, always do all work I was permitted to do in place of women (except that explicitly proscribed as "woman's work") to buy things for women, to do what my mother tells me and to always be ten times more polite and abashed when in the presence of women for fear of hurting their more evolved sensibilities. As I declared myself a modern man in junior high, I found that shifting from this primordial protector-of-weak-women narrative to protector-of-strong-women and the primordial male guilt narrative of feminism came as naturally as diving into alien abduction conspiracy stories after I'd stopped believing in gawd a-mighteh. The sexual repression of Christian courtship rituals transitioned seamlessly into the feminist condemnation of men's sex drive and unending rape panic.

All of us under fifty have grown up with feminist propaganda. Those under thirty have grown up with a media culture so saturated with feminist iconography that it's been impossible to flip on any major TV station without being inundated by images of valiant, innocent women fighting back against cackling, moustache-twirling male oppressors. The many avatars of Homer Simpson, the dumb bumbling males being suffered by attractive, well-spoken, condescending, morally superior women, have screamed their abuse at us from the cradle. If negative stereotyping of women on the scale of the Lifetime channel's negative stereotyping of men had been carried out by any major station within our lifetimes, Disney's doors would've been kicked in decades ago. We've watched obedient facetious niceness replace obedient stern competitiveness in schools and we've seen bulletproof women persist in workplace roles in which they're utterly incompetent, for fear of discrimination lawsuits. We've sat in college courses where female figures of authority teaching predominantly female classes wail and moan about male oppression. We've watched "men are evil" become the law of the land. We've been told to shut up. Look away. Pay no attention to the woman behind the curtain. Say ten Hail Marys in penance for your thought crimes against female moral authority.

Born into this faith, some of us abandon it as we did the previous one. Modern feminism is a fundamentalist creed like any other. It establishes an absolute good (female) and an absolute evil (male) and thrives by selling its listeners the moral panic and entitlement of becoming saved by acceptance into the one true faith. It holds no compunctions against lying to promote its cause because it believes itself the moral center of the universe, the holy light in whose service any number of indulgences may be issued. No amount of favoritism perpetrated on behalf of the good against the evil can ever be enough in the race toward the rapture and an eternal kingdom of beatific feminism. It dredges up decontextualized male crimes of generations past out of their chivalrous milieu to browbeat new generations of young men already walking on eggshells for fear of bringing offense to women with the mythicized sins of their fathers. It ignores even basic biology in favor of its anti-male mythology and cheerfully proclaims the extermination of males (#killallmen) with the most serene psychopathy. The phrase "I'm a feminist" is delivered with the same self-righteous expectation of immunity from criticism as any redneck's "ah'm a Chreeshchun" and those calling themselves such have long passed into the predictable crusading stage of any fundamentalist creed attempting to subsume all other social movements into its fold. See "intersectional" feminism.

I wrote this post after running across this video by the relatively well known anti-theist speaker AronRa (three years old at this point) in which he recounts his childhood under the old abusive traditionalism. Then, in an eerie and jaw-dropping display of doublethink, instead of acknowledging the sadistic brainwashing inflicted upon boys in the name of masculinity and that traditional societies abuse both men and women to mold them into the family unit, he launches into a feeble attempt to square the old system off against feminism, as though the two were the only existing poles of a binary system. As though the only alternative were a self-described opposite. This is the reaction I used to get as a teenager back in the '90s in the U.S. when I mentioned atheism. Aron Ra himself knows it damn well, having recounted it in other videos.
"Boy, you one a-dem Satanists?"
It's a fundamentalist reaction. The only way to escape Hell is through God and anything not of God must be The Devil. Anything not feminist must be reactionary misogyny? Such rhetoric carries a nasty reek of the proselyte's abject submission (by no means unique to this one speaker but common in those who converted from right to left wing) of "once was lost but now am found" and refusal to criticize that which once accepted as part of some trinity of saving grace becomes self-justification.

Feminism is nothing new. It's a warmed-over re-hashing of original sin with Adam's apple once more taking center stage but testicles playing the role of The Devil. Those of us who hold predominantly leftist views (antitheism, environmentalism, equal opportunity, a certain degree of socialism and anarchism, scientific progress, etc.) but have also turned against feminism have usually done so through the same process through which we turned against religion, corporatism or state authoritarianism. We lived in the faith, chanting its prayers and commercials and oaths of allegiance, yearning for its reinforcement, for a pat on the head for being pro-woman, until gradually the fallacies of its core claims became too glaring to ignore and its abuses too grating. We saw in this creed one of the shadows of God of which Nietzsche warned. We went one goddess further.

As far as AronRa's speech, what finally clicked into place for me was his mention of Gloria Steinem, suddenly bringing to mind this old video and her stunning rationalization of her involvement with the CIA. It runs the usual course of the true believer's self-justification: anything which serves the faith must be good.

The CIA supported feminism.
... but anything calling itself feminism is liberal, always and forever. It must be. This is absolute dogma.
Therefore it can't be that feminism was never all that liberal, that in its absolutist proposition of women as victims of men, of men's original sin against women to be expiated only by adherence to feminist women's demands, it only used and reinforced chivalry and other older methods of social control, a new velvet glove for the old iron fist of sexual repression, a means by the powerful to divide and conquer.
It must be, according to her, that the CIA is liberal. Clearly. The fucking CIA! The old secret police before the NSA and Homeland Security, secretive, above-the-law murderers and torturers in service of the establishment, the eyes and ears of Big Brother, must somehow be "liberal" because while setting up theocratic or corporatist puppet dictatorships across the world and training foreign death squads and at that very same time being immersed in a fourteen-year program dedicated to infiltrating, undermining and tearing apart any domestic left-wing movements, must somehow qualify as liberal for paying off her holiness Gloria Steinem! Hallelujah! It can't be the other way around, because we all know feminism is the one true light of justification.

If the various props, tools and weapons of feminism were mere "trivialities" as Aron Ra describes them then feminists themselves should have no trouble abandoning their superstitions. They are of course not, and for an example of their negative impact you can watch Texas' shaggiest antitheist himself commit his auto da fe. A man who in other contexts will mercilessly attack "Flintstones archaeology" finds himself praising Steinem, one of the Grand Mistresses of that trade guild of self-promoting con artists who have preached, among other atrocities, the existence of a staggeringly elusive multi-millennial worldwide (or at the very least pan-Eurasian) pre-Greek matriarchal golden age of peace, love and prosperity centered in Minoan Crete, based on archaeological evidence so flimsy as to make Ken Ham blush.
I've heard it remarked that faith makes otherwise rational people do irrational things.
Yes, yes it certainly does.

Repeat the mantra. Man bad, woman good. In Dworkin we trust. The faithful are saved and the heretic shall be cast into the pit. All who accept divine grace, no matter how wicked, shall be granted absolution.

Atheism hinges on rationalism. It cannot retain credibility while kow-towing to an insidiously abusive dogmatic poison which declares half the population guilty by birth and demands constant penance and tribute and the adoption of exaggerations, half-truths and outright lies as slogans. Atheism by itself is not the point. Rationalism is, and feminism is not rational. It's the left wing's answer to Fox News, an anti-intellectual, self-serving, ever more apocryphal set of scriptures designed to establish sinecures for cheap revival tent prophets with humanities degrees who sell their audience entitlement and fabricate moral panics like a "rape culture" or "war on women" to whip the populace into line. Accepting such disease as part and parcel of atheism or "the left" - whatever that means these days - is inherently self-defeating. It undermines the very principles of reason and equality by which we attack religion. As though anyone could doubt that feminism, with its oft-proven penchant for phantasmagorical mythopoesis like "women created civilization" and menstrual moon worship would not birth (parthenogenetically, I presume) new, very literal theocracies as soon as it tore down the old ones.

The call for uncritical conformity, while it will occasionally be voiced, is not to be given credence within skeptical or rationalist movements. It was wrong of Christopher Hitchens to preach unity behind the child king Bush II in his middle-eastern crusade and it is wrong of Aron Ra (and many others) to preach adherence to the feminist doctrines of original masculine sin for the sake of unity. Skepticism carries an inherently anarchist undertone in its denial of authorities. He knows damn well we kids playing the home game are going to call bullshit on that and admitted it in the caveat before his speech and yet... can't help himself. The old mantras still sound so good, bring such comfort. Why take people's faith away from them?

We need gender equality. We must be able to criticize women for their unanalyzed instinctive behavior patterns just as we criticize men; we must be able to criticize femininity as we criticize masculinity. Above all we need to attack the irrational chauvinistic glorification of women and femininity, feminism. We need anti-feminism. You activists need it precisely because of feminism's tarnished halo, its undeserved privileged seat at the heart of rationalist social movements, not despite it, and if this comes at the cost of abandoning your delusion of the big happy family of leftism, then so be it.

It's just one goddess further to go.

Monday, November 14, 2016

A Werwolfe Curled up on the Fireplace Rug

I can't hate Skyrim. It did some things amazingly well like the landscape, beautifully modeled with both secretive nooks and glorious vistas. However, after seeing Oblivion's alarming decrease in nerdiness, I did give Skyrim a pass in favor of artsier fare until just last year, when my fears and suspicions were more or less confirmed. It's a game marketed to idiots, oversimplified and handing the player undeserved pats on the back at every turn, lacking any sense of scale or proportion but riddled with idiotic Hollywood envy like the bullet-time kill camera. It whipped you onwards with giant map markers so as not to overtax your presumed low gamer IQ with demands of planning or foresight. More so than Oblivion it crammed the repetitive MMO grind down your throat with every area respawning mobs almost as soon as you leave it. It pretty much removed any meaningful resource management, with so many freebies lying around that your only worry is being able to carry everything you find. Every single NPC and faction in Skyrim will gladly let you rob them blind as soon as you declare yourself their friend.

Still, I can't entirely hate Skyrim. Despite its deliberate simplicity and redundancy, that insane pile of money thrown into its development yielded a great many serene, captivating hours wandering the snowy slopes of here and there, picking berries and catching fireflies. Paradoxically, a much better designed game recently drove me to fire up my old Argonian character in Skyrim. For all I enjoyed Pillars of Eternity, it did suffer from some glaring half-implemented features cut short during development and though the spell / ability system's shortcomings had a more negative impact on actual gameplay, I can't help but shed a tear for Caed Nua, PoE's woefully lackluster attempt at a home base. You build one-click simplistic upgrades which serve no purpose and offer little to no eye-candy either: dining rooms in which you never dine, libraries which hold no books, defensive walls awaiting raids which never arrive. Caed Nua never feels like home.

(The Endless Paths of Od Nua on the other hand were freaking brilliant but that's a topic for another day.)

So PoE inadvertently made me fire up Skyrim again, not for the game itself but for its Hearthfire expansion. Welcome home.
After a hard day's looting, a lycanthropic lizardman accompanied by his vampiric witch sidekick and trusty divine hound climb into the southwestern foothills of The Pale to a stately mansion still bearing the signs of ongoing construction. Welcome to Heljarchen Hall. Come in, come in (wipe your feet) and lemme introduce ya to tha missus.
If she minds me adventuring all over the map with a smokin' hot vamp in tow she's never complained. Good sport, old Brelyna, and hey, it's not like I ask what she gets up to with my stout gravely-voiced male servants while I'm gone. Why, yes, of course we have kids - two orphans adopted and spoiled rotten with sweets and dollies and expensive clothes and their own allowance and, errr... and blood-soaked ceremonial sacrifice daggers, which apparently count as children's presents for some strange reason.
Then again daddy's a snarling moon-beast so y'know what, go nuts kid, go sacrifice your pet bunny to a demon prince or something. But hey, the aesthetics alone wouldn't have made me love this place so much. It's rather bland for my tastes. I would've rather dug a rotting dank lair into the ground and filled it with zombies and wild beasts if I'd had the choice, but the most you can get out of Skyrim's options seems to be generic Sims-ish homeyness. Well, okay, my tendencies nonetheless assert themselves - I refuse to put in any lighting in my basement aside from the pale red glow from my forge, though unfortunately I've yet to find a way to fill it with cadavers.

The best part is that you actually build the damn place. You buy a plot of land and buy lumber and have it shipped there and dig for clay and collect all sorts of resources like glass and straw to build each upgrade. Simpleminded and linear it may be, like the rest of Skyrim, but the Hearthfire expansion makes you work for it and that's very important to build a player's sense of attachment to one's base of operations. Even more important, it's functional.
That's my greenhouse. I mostly grow poison and wheat (I'd combine the two but ergotism never made it into the alchemical system) and as the stuff grows it attracts butterflies and bees as well. Whoever masterminded the Hearthfire expansion had an excellent mind for detail and went just one step further with every facet of the place. If you build a kitchen it comes with a functional oven for cooking. You decorate the walls with trophies from the battlefield. Your family sits down for breakfast at the big table in the central room. Your servants defend your home from attacks by wild creatures. Last but not least, these homes are... let's say "situated" - no mere "third house on the left" they occupy distinctive locations, carefully landscaped in keeping with the Elder Scrolls series' brilliant mapmaking in general.
You can spot the hill with your house from half a map away. Your eyes turn homewards from distant mountain peaks. It's "on your way" to here and there, and always so tempting to stop off for a homecooked meal and a little bricolage, maybe pursue your alchemical research in the peace and comfort of your own abode built with your own two hands. Skyrim bores me. I hate all the myriad quest markers ordering me mindlessly in some direction or another. The Hearthfire expansion, however, has beckoned me back several times. Banal and mostly linear, still a functional, self-built home lends a center and a sense of purpose and progression to your wanderings which the idiotic level-grind utterly lacks. I'm always going to dungeons from my house and returning to my house with presents and dreams of renovation and expansion.

Don't underestimate the importance of making the player work for and be rewarded by a base of operations. Hearthfire by itself has more than doubled my Skyrim play-time.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

ST:TNG - Dr. Pulaski - and wtf is up with scifi biotech?

In an effort to relive my early teens, I am re-watching old episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It is both better and worse than I remembered it, as was my youth most likely.

Ah, Pulaski - a.k.a. the Enterprise's "other" doctor in TNG. Her stint on the show lasted all of one season, yet if you'd asked me last year I would've mistakenly said it felt like half the series. Likely this stems from her being a better defined character, more centered on her science fictiony functions instead of emoting all over the place. Not that Crusher ever approached her son's epic nuisance levels, but ole' Bev was blatantly intended to serve as mother to Weasely and love interest to Jean-Luc first and as qualified professional second. Replacing her soft-voiced mothering presence with a stern, hard-nosed medical researcher like Pulaski greatly improved TNG's SF credentials in my book and should've remained the case for the rest of the series.

Seriesdate: 2.01
The Child

Y'know, that idiotic episode written by amateurs while the professional writers were on strike. Troi's immaculate conception of a fast-track martyr boy-child. I do find it hilarious that although I contrast the two doctors in terms of their femininity, Pulaski's very first action on the ship is to deliver a baby. Way to cut your own branch, geniuses.
Seriesdate: 2.03
Elementary Dear Data

Presented more at length here in terms of Data's progression, but also yielding a bit of Pulaski's true personality, including her derision and skepticism of Data's sentience. Pulaski was initially a female copycat of Bones from the original series, gruff and straightforward but capable of having a laugh, even down to her constantly needling Data as Bones needled his own token logic factory, Spock. It was a good, soft-toned antagonism that could've really kept the dialogue flowing aboard the ship, a feature lacking in Beverly Crusher the mother hen. More importantly, it shows us Pulaski as a self-possessed, dignified prisoner calmly having tea with her captor, the villain Dr. Moriarty on the holodeck, as a rather un-distressed damsel.

Seriesdate: 2.07
Unnatural Selection

Pulaski's time to shine! There's a medical emergency and the good doctor gets to prove her dedication to her patients by crossing the quarantine zone and risking getting infected herself. Which she does! The disease in question rapidly ages its victims, which was a rather more popular trope from the late '80s until 2000 or so than it is now. The discovery of telomeres hit pop culture and suggested a single cause of aging, and for a while telomere elongation sounded like the fountain of youth.

In case you're wondering, and ignoring any specifics, immortalizing cell lines will eventually yield cancer just in probabilistic terms, by accumulating mutations as the cells divide. No, telomerase is no fountain of youth, and really it makes no appearance on this show, but the trope of rapid aging was very, very popular. It tied into great scientific hopes and it presents a stunning visual rather easily manageable with make-up, therefore a relatively low-budget special effect for the time.

A greater aside: why is biology the red-headed stepchild of science fiction? Physics in SciFi touts all these amazing progressive and/or badass discoveries like teleporters and laserguns and flying cars... yet every time biology gets tapped it's for plagues and Brundleflies and zombie apocalypses! This is the same show with that wonder of cybernetics, Data, riding a force-field-phasering interstellar exploration vessel. Then when it's time to show the wonders of biology we get a freaking luddite wail of panic that attempting to breed telekinetic ubermenschen will somehow wipe out the human species. Well, replacing humanity would be kind of the point of breeding ubermenschen, but in reality it's biologists saving all our asses from unicellular apocalypse! Augh!
Okaaaayyyy, calming down now, calming down... where was I, let's see...

"Their immune systems don't wait for disease to attack the body. It would seek out the virus and destroy it!"

What the FUCK! I'd say that's the most idiotic line you could've come up with but some dingbat on that writing team already gave us "subatomic bacteria" so I guess you've already outdone yourselves. Did you even read the dictionary definition of an immune system? Or did you just assume it's some mystical miasma you can send out into the aether like Professor Xavier projecting his astral form? Isaac Asimov taught biochem and he was still alive in 1989. Would it have killed you jokers to call him up and beg him to kindly smack you upside your heads? Aside from other problems, if those post-human brats were spewing clouds of antibodies and immune cells everywhere they went, they'd probably be sending everyone around them into anaphylactic shock or inducing graft vs. host disease!
Oookaaaaayyyy, calming down.... whew.

Anyhoo, pretty good episode aside from from all the nonsensical biotech jargon and hatin' on biology, and by the end Dr. Pulaski's saved from her untimely plunge into senility through the medical magic of... O'Brien's teleporters...

Oh, fuck me, let's just move on to the last one.

Seriesdate: 2.18
Up The Long Ladder

Yup. That's a cow alright.

Pulaski treats Worf when he unexpectedly curls up his toes and faints from a childhood illness. In return he treats her to the Klingon tea ceremony, which I suppose was meant to link Klingons more closely to bad-ass samurai and the Japanese tea ceremonies, except this one's about as complex as, well, sipping tea. Oh, but with both hands. That's important. Also poison.

The real plot involves two lost human colonies, both in danger of dying out. A bunch of "back to nature" drunken Irish hillbillies have to get relocated because of solar flares but it's no bother really because they're hilarious. Their chieftain even tries to set Picard up with his shrewish no-nonsense spitfire of a daughter. Hilarity ensues. Plus pigshit in the cargo bay.

Meanwhile and elsewhere, another (high-tech this time) colony is dying out from genetic disorders. Their original population on arrival was too small to ensure genetic viability, so they've been asexually reproducing, cloning themselves for the past three centuries and the cloning process has begun to wear thin. They beg the Enterprise's crew for a few cells from which to clone new colonists, and the mighty, elevated, open-minded 24th century spacefarers suddenly start throwing salt over their shoulders and crossing their fingers in front of them to ward off such a blasphemous proposition. Desperate, the cloners zap Riker and Pulaski unconscious and simply take a few cells. Pulaski discovers what happened and they return to the planet to discover.... dun-dun-duuuuuUUUUNNN !
-clones being grown from their cells. Oh noes! They murder their incipient doppelgangers and indignantly call the colonists out on the theft of copyrighted genetic material. Then they simply lump the two colonies (rednecks and asexuals) together and tell 'em to fuck 'til their kids all look the same, and with this interplanetary odd couple solution all is well again.

On the whole, this is a decent episode. It's funny, fast-paced, witty and complex by the low standards of 45 minutes of late '80s TV and quite cohesive in its theme of compromise. There's only one snag, and once again it's the paranoid, Luddite treatment of the topic of biotechnology, in this case cloning. There seems to be no way of getting this through the public's thick head: there is nothing special about cloning! Identical twins are exactly that, clones, perfectly mundane, naturally occurring clones, and yet every time the topic comes up it runs into an implacable wall of primitive superstition, the same caveman paranoia running against genetically modified crops or vaccines. It's the idiotic religious fear of hubris, of doing rationally and purposefully only what nature does randomly, recklessly and aimlessly.

The human animal fears its own sentience more than anything, and there's no bigger boogeyman in the public mind than unfettered intellect - the witch, the wild-eyed philosopher, the mad scientist.

It's hilarious that every time cloning comes up in cheap pulp SF it's always demonized as some grand reckless scientific advance, yet always accompanied by tacitly hand-waved futuristic technologies which are centuries ahead of cloning itself. Sweet mother of crap, growing an entire adult human body in one day?!? We can't even dream of that kind of technology now, and we've been able to clone humans for two decades. Transferring memories to clones so they walk and talk just like their tissue donors? What the hell, you're talking about a mind-machine interface which, if available, would result in godlike cyborgs and androids, not paltry simian copies. Yet time and again these jaw-dropping technological marvels have to be worked into cloning storylines because cloning alone, manufacturing identical twins, is so utterly mundane in and of itself as to feed no anti-scientific paranoia. So you're going to have fifteen identical twins of you, all thirty or forty (or however old you are) years younger than yourself. Big whoop. Even identical twins of the same age, grown in the same household, end up with different personalities before they hit grade school.

And there's the core issue: the public has no theory of mind. The popular conception of personal identity relies not on a rational analysis of diverging personal experiences superimposed on natural tendencies, but on primitive superstitious mysticism about souls, so that taking a few cells for cloning sounds to the average cretin (as "stealing" a photographic image did to superstitious aborigines) like stealing your soul! On the other hand, those clones being grown in those foggy vats were persons in their own right, separate individuals whom Riker and Pulaski casually murder with no more than a head-nod as justification, under the moral umbrella of stone-age superstition.

TNG was an excellent Utopian SF show allowing people to look to a post-scarcity future brightened by technological marvels... yet when those marvels edge into the biological it repeatedly flipped around to Luddite hand-wringing. It's the damndest thing. I prefer Dr. Pulaski to Crusher. She's a better rounded character centered not on her biological or social role but on her own quirks, interests and tendencies, an actual personality. Still it seems like after casting her the show's writers had no interest in using her as anything but a prop to demonize biology for stepping on The Creator's celestial toes.

P.S. - Never mind that the Star Trek teleporter, ripping the subject apart and reassembling the atoms at the other end according to the analyzed pattern, was nothing but a murder/cloning machine in the first place.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

If I Had a Little (less) Money

"So I must leave, I'll have to go
To Las Vegas or Monaco
Ahnd vin a fohrtune een a game
My life will never be the same."

ABBA - Money, Money, Money

I've praised the game Banished before. It's an unassuming but quite ambitious (in its way) small-scale product encompassing the essence of city simulators. It's clean, sleek, complex, honest and everything indie games should be instead of some faux-pixelated "neo-retro" bullshit. It's Mount&Blade for the nonviolent. It's both classic and creative. Here's a picture of a merchant's boat stopped at one of my trading posts. Tell me what you don't see. What's missing?
Give up?
It's money.
As one of Banished's more interesting aspects its in-game economy runs on the barter system, though its developer sadly will not accept chickens in payment for the game itself. In one way this simply fits its frontier-style setting beyond the borders of civilization, but it also brings up the age-old issue of social engineering in persistent virtual worlds. Can we get ourselves an MMO without a default in-game currency?

On one hand this falls into the category of top-down social engineering in the real world. As the game industry grew it began to pander primarily not to its customers but to rich investors whose interest lies in dictating public opinion. Games now push the social agenda of the rich, and nothing defines the rich more than... well, shit, you can guess this one, right? Money.

Interestingly enough Banished itself illustrates the effect of this cause to its circular effect. My cities in Banished look decidedly decentralized compared to my old Sim Cities. Farmlands intersperse with housing neighbourhoods and mines dot the hills but if you didn't know the center of town is probably near the center of the map you'd be hard-pressed to find it. There's no central wallet into which you can bleed the "surplus" of all your workers' daily toil for a neatly absolute measure of your overlordship. It's harder to work the whole city to death to feed your new pet building project for your own greater glory. By refocusing your attention on the physical presence of goods and labor, Banished yields a much more balanced "buy local" mindset. Less reliance on 18-wheelers belching smoke along five thousand miles to lug seabass and bananas from Chile to Toronto just so some fatcat can make an extra half cent a pound profit on the stuff. Harder to grow fat off wastefulness by playing one side of the world against the other.

Barter systems may sound primitive, but their greatest advantage is placing a logistical upper limit on the centralization of wealth and power. The robber-barons of the silk road didn't build their palaces out of silk or by hoarding silk but by controlling the prices on it, and so does Donald Trump.

On the other hand, we've arguably already had at least one example of an MMO without a central currency, dating back to the pre-WoW days of yore. A Tale in the Desert ran much like Banished does, on an economy of grass, carrots, papyrus and camel's milk which players moved from place to place if they wanted to get anything done. The effect was much the same: decentralization. There was no grand capital like WoW's Ironforge or LotRO's Bree with the entire player population cramming into one auction house to rip each other off, no Las Vegas or Monaco - and yet, Pyramids still got built in ATitD, grand works got worked.

Keep in mind the concept and functionality of currency likely cannot be removed completely, either from the real world or any fake ones. It's too useful in itself, too logical, and one of those freedom-loving genies which abandon their bottles for good.

Take Diablo 2 as one example. It featured an in-game numeric currency in the player's wallet, but this was soon inflated and trivialized into insignificance by the hundred-level exponential grind, about as useful as 1930s Deutschmarks. Trading soon regressed to bartering rare pieces of armor and weapons toward each other based on their functionality and rarity. From that system one item (the Stone of Jordan, and yes it was a joke about Michael Jordan's NBA rings) emerged as the new money. Players began advertising their buy/sell prices in chat rooms in units of "SoJs" and a new in-game economy sprang into being based on a player-determined currency instead of Blizzard's official one.

Note also that Banished in truth does contain an invisible currency. Those goods at the trading post have a predetermined "value" with basic foodstuffs all being equal to 1, so there's an underlying frame of reference in play even if it's never officially named, keeping those prices artificially balanced. Otherwise coal would rapidly soar in value while fish, firewood and venison would tank. Nonetheless it still portrays an economy based on actual goods and services instead of chimeric fabrications like mortgage futures.

Instituting such an economy in an MMO would be much simpler than it seems. Establish a system in which all valuable goods are produced by players from resources acquired by players and traded to other players. A player economy in which everything has weight and/or bulk and has to be stored and moved without teleportation and can be looted and/or decays. Then, quite simply... leave out the currency. No gold, silver or copper coin icons in player inventories. No interstellar kroners. Allow the creation of trading posts in which players can set their desired buy / sell orders in units of a variety of basic goods: daisies, nails, healing scrolls or goblin snot, all plucked, hammered, incanted or squeezed by player effort.

Let relative values be determined by ease of acquisition, storage bulk, usefulness of the various goods. Unofficial currencies will soon emerge, and not artificial ones but direct representations of players' own assessment of their communal or individual effort. Attach effort to the centralization of wealth by ensuring that wealth has to be moved and stored. The rich want you to buy into the glorification of money. They want you to play games with stock markets, auction houses, the worth a nation in your pocket. They want you to want to be like them. So don't buy into their bullshit. Money is at best just a mirror reflecting the value or true goods. Don't take a reflection for the real thing... at least not within your escapist fantasies. And hey, who knows, maybe if we can make it work in imaginary worlds, then a more rational sort of economy might start bleeding into the real one.

Start raising kids playing games in which value is represented by tangible value and not by financial markets' pies in various skies. Show them a decentralized economy. Show that world based not on usury and gambling and strangling productivity by hoarding wealth but on real productivity first to one generation, and then the next, and the next. Plant the meme. Planet the meme. Apples for oranges.

First, we take Manhattan...
-edit- No, no, wait, first we take Gotham...

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Four More Years!

You did it! Congratulations!
Unbelievable. You fucking retards elected a rabid baboon president of the richest country on the planet. Tagged in the bad cop, did you?

Well, we're in for some interesting next few years. I'd encourage anyone with any working brain cells to settle their affairs in the U.S. and start seeking emigration to someplace with more sense like North Korea before the whole country starts looking like the slums of Detroit. If this ass-hat doesn't get himself impeached within his first year in office, America will finally get the president it deserves.


Tuesday, November 8, 2016


"Would you run away to another land?
Walk a thousand miles through the burning sand?
And wipe the blood away from my dying hand
If I gave myself to you?"

Shivaree - Would You Lay with Me (In a Field of Stone)

Lady, it ain't no gift! Nothing is, in fact, given, when a woman so sneeringly condescends to spread her legs for a man. The few calories of energy expended in amusing ourselves with the sexual organs and instincts we've inherited as evolutionary relics are not in fact transferred from one person to the other but invested in the activity itself. Sex is not a product, nor a gift.

I said a few days ago I've been reading H.G. Wells' Tono-Bungay, a marginally fictionalized commentary on English society around the previous turn of the century published in 1909. Though most of it deals with the English class system and the increasingly predatory commercialization of public affairs, it also touches on other mental illnesses of the body politic like marriage and religion.
"I have tried [...] to indicate something of my own sexual development [...] My ideas were made partly of instinct, partly of romantic imagination, partly woven out of a medley of scraps of suggestion that came to me haphazard. [...] But it was evident to me [...] that to defy convention and succumb magnificently to passion was the proper thing to do to gain the respect and affection of all decent people.

And the make-up of Marion's mind in the matter was an equally irrational affair. Her training had been one, not simply of silences, but suppressions. An enormous force of suggestion had so shaped her that the intense natural fastidiousness of girlhood had developed into an absolute perversion of instinct. For all that is cardinal in this essential business of life she had one inseparable epithet - "horrid." Without any such training she would have been a shy lover but now she was an impossible one. [...] she had an idea of love as a state of worship and service on the part of the man and of condescension on the part of the woman. There was nothing "horrid" about it in any fiction she had read. The man gave presents, did services, sought in every way to be delightful. The woman "went out" with him, smiled at him, was kissed by him in decorous secrecy, and if he chanced to offend, denied her countenance and presence. Usually she did something "for his good" to him, made him go to church, made him give up smoking or gambling, smartened him up. Quite at the end of the story came a marriage, and after that the interest ceased."

Isn't it strange that the anti-sexual interpretation of sex which Wells presents as a singular aberration of the English society of his day is now, a hundred and seven years later, the uncontested law governing interaction between the genders? We sneer at Victorians as buttoned-down all the while convinced, ourselves, that sexual relationships are about anything and everything other than sex. Sex, we assure ourselves, is not about anything "horrid" but about men begging women to "go out" with them, about dinners in fancy restaurants, planting her roses where she wants them in the garden, cuddling on the couch watching her favorite movies, it's about listening to a woman talk about her day and giving her foot-rubs; sex is about diamond rings, banishing men to man-caves in their own homes, half-of-everything divorces, alimony and making husband #2 parade you around in the car paid for by husband #1.

Human sex is all about exerting power over men. It's about men debasing themselves in displays of devotion to women and women sneering down at men from atop the pedestal of femininity. Sex is never about sex.

Where men have a sex drive, women have a control drive, and while we vilify sex we glorify that female control, most often called romance. What men want is condemned as "horrid." Pornography, sex for its own sake, is demonized and swept under society's rug but romantic movies, romantic songs, romantic books, romantic news segments fill every moment of our public life. We live in constant panic over the threat of the rape of the body yet beatify the rape of an entire life, of men subverting their existence to protecting and providing for women and their offspring. We still push men to "succumb magnificently to passion" and risk everything in pursuit of women who deride and belittle them.

And sure, Wells later presents alongside the repressed Marion the liberated Effie with whom the narrator eventually has a no-strings affair. He neglects however to address the infinitesimally small proportion of Effies to Marions within the human species, if any Effies have even survived into the era of #HeForShe and #killallmen. It may be that decades from now we'll look back at the first twenty years or so of the new millennium, the age of the cult of Andrea Dworkin, as a bizarre sort of nu-Victorian prissiness. My money's on the alternate explanation. Wells mis-attributed his character Marion's behavior to nurture and not nature. The demonization of the sexual side of sex in favor of the glorification of courtship rituals, of blue-balled males constantly showering females in displays of devotion and social rank, that represents not merely some anomalous historical curiousity but an expression of women's own sexual instincts. The female of the species has likely just evolved to - bleed - men for the hell of it, to constantly reassure themselves of their mates' devotion by wringing as much out of them as possible. For material gain, sure, but more often than not for the sheer power trip of laying claim to more and more of a man's time and energy for herself, of getting her way. We applaud any female who brags about having males tied around her little finger. It takes effort on a woman's part to check herself in this behavior but no encouragement is given to women to do so whatsoever. Quite the contrary. Everything in our society tells women to indulge in their instinct to control men - "for his good" naturally. It's not an imposition upon women (though the tail might occasionally wag the bitch) so much as an expression of the predominant unanalyzed female instinct.

1909, 2016, London or Anytown, U.S.A., who can even tell? New barrel, same monkeys. Fun, fun, fun.

edit 2016/12/03 - Added a sentence and a half for clarification.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Grieving Mother

"Lies lies lies you love those lies
You tell them straight, straight to my face
They feel so right, they keep you safe
And you're so - good! - at it
Oh, it comes automatic

And you're so sly about it, oh it comes automatic
Yeah you're so good at it, a systematic habit"

Garbage - Automatic Systematic Habit

As is customary for Baldur's Gate inspired RPGs, much of Pillars of Eternity's roleplaying is relegated to its roster of NPC companions, and unfolding their various side-stories eats up much of your dialoguing throughout your adventures. Some of these are pretty cheesy, weak characters at their core (Maneha) while others are underdeveloped (from Aloth to Zahua) while others are a mixed bag. The Devil of Caroc could've been a true powerhouse but stops short of her rightful mythopoietic ascendance to self-justifying anti-villainess status. Hiravias had some half-decent writing to work with but was just so awkwardly voiced as to completely put me off dragging him along more than absolutely necessary despite my penchant for druids.

The two best companions by far though in terms of dialogue were the ones directly written by Chris Avellone: Durance and Grieving Mother. I'd run across Avellone's name many times in the past but as I generally take little notice of individuals within companies never paid it much attention. I have to say though, his leaving for Larian now makes me slightly more interested in D:OS2 than anything Obsidian's putting out. Kinda sorry I pre-ordered Tyranny.

Durance and Grieving Mother were the only ones who didn't toe the politically correct line at every step. With Durance this is rather obvious from the first time he calls his goddess "whore" to... well, the 1347th time he calls her a whore. Taking a character with such a blatantly grating central trait and building him into someone you can be proud to have at your side in the final battle took true ingenuity and talent. Most others along Durance's lines are always relegated to comic relief status and moralistic punching bags (see Oghren in DA:Origins.) Not that I needed much convincing to stand in Durance's corner after I found him speaking my words in his introductory dialogue.

The transgressive side of GM's dialogues is less blatant but equally biting.
Largely it's because Grieving Mother's crime is so fundamentally, so intrinsically... feminine. I don't mean just the midwife background, though I'll get back to that in a second. I mean the attitude so many human beings possess of treating truth as merely the social convenience of the moment, to be ignored or cherry-picked for personal gain. Everyone does it, but the impulse toward "little white lies" finds decidedly more fertile ground in the feminine social manipulation mindset than in the masculine social dominance mindset. Yet we are forbidden in modern society to address any of the flaws, abuses and toxicity of femininity.

I was utterly shocked at even being given the opportunity to tell Grieving Mother to her face that y'know what, no... reality is not fucking optional! More so that this was treated as a valid method of interacting with the character instead of having truth thrown back in my face in favor of self-serving facetious "niceness" and being beaten over the head with postmodernist moral relativism as I would've been in most games. You can stand your ground and make GM face her own crimes and she comes out all the stronger for it, a villainess turned antiheroine.

All the more crucial that those crimes were perpetrated in the name of childbirth. We deify motherhood. The mere notion that someone self-identifying with that most sacred taboo should be called out on crimes perpetrated in the name of her holy calling is so delightfully subversive (intentionally or not) as to make me immediately minimize my game client and google who the hell wrote this gem! By the time Durance underwent his great discovery I was mentally prepared to discover the same writer responsible for both.

Lovely work, monsieur Avellone.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Blarsphemy, Muvver!

"He sewed his eyes shut because he is afraid to see
He tries to tell me what I've put inside of me"

Nine Inch Nails - Heresy

Continuing my perusal of the works of H.G. Wells I've run into Tono-Bungay, his dissection of contemporary English society by 1909. If some of his other lesser-known works pale in comparison with his best writing, I'm very surprised at Tono-Bungay's obscurity given that it's actually damn good stuff. I can only explain it by splitting the difference of Wells' main claim to fame. Science Fiction fans don't read non-SF works from even their favorite SF writers, and "serious" audiences of "literature" refuse to take seriously anything whatsoever written by a SF author.

I'll return to this book at some later date but for now I've excerpted a few paragraphs from the chapter addressing religion. The narrator, a boy in his early teens, has just been indentured (read: enslaved) to an older cousin of his as an apprentice baker, and the family's piousness brings to full consciousness his realization of the falsehood of religion.

As you read this, I want you to remember it was published in 1909. Nineteen-oh-nine! I want you to note how precisely Wells describes (obviously from personal experience) the same exact conflict in which most atheists find themselves when they first declare religion a fraud even now a century later. The same social pressures, the same predictable outraged reaction shots from the faithful, the same fatalistic wallowing of the lower classes in their faith in mythical afterlives, the same attempts at terrorizing the boy into submission.

I sometimes wonder what "conservative" politics even mean, but if anything embodies conservatism it's religion. In the hundred and seven years since Tono-Bungay was published, the forward-looking, inventive, realistic minority of the human species has advanced tremendously, dragging the rest of the species kicking and screaming into a more comfortable future.
The religious backbirths however, those wallowing in the false promises of eternal life and celestial law-givers to save them from the burden of independent thought? You know, the majority? They're the same damn beast. In 2016 you can go to any cheap diner in any slum or backwater town anywhere in the developed world (to say nothing about poor countries, allahu akhbullshit) and there you'll find Uncle Frapp, pudgy, dingy, lackadaisical, fish-eyed and always taking great pride in trudging in circles and not doing certain things.

My cousin Nicodemus Frapp was a baker in a back street - a slum rather [...] he still remains an almost dreadful memory, a sort of caricature of incompetent simplicity. [...] He had no pride in his business nor any initiative; his only virtues were not doing certain things and hard work. [...] There was a sort of base honourableness about toil, however needless, in that system of inversion. [...] whenever there was occasion for any exertion his wife fell back upon pains and her 'condition,' and God sent them many children, most of whom died, and so, by their coming and going, gave a double exercise in the virtues of submission.

Resignation to God's will was the common device of these people in the face of every duty and every emergency. There were no books in the house; I doubt if either of them had retained the capacity for reading consecutively for more than a minute or so
One might have doubted if either of them felt discomfort in this dusty darkness of existence, if it was not that they did visibly seek consolation. They sought this and found it of a Sunday, not in strong drink and raving, but in imaginary draughts of blood. They met with twenty of thirty other darkened and unclean people, all dressed in dingy colours that would not show the dirt, in a little brick-built chapel equipped with a spavined roarer of a harmonium, and there solaced their minds that all that was fair and free in life, all that struggled, all that planned and made, all pride and beauty and honor, all fine and enjoyable things, were irrevocably damned to everlasting torments. They were the self-appointed confidants of God's mockery of his own creation.
If Bladesover is my key for the explanation of England, I think my invincible persuasion that I understand Russia was engendered by Uncle Frapp.
I slept in a dingy sheeted bed with the two elder survivors of Frapp fecundity
Serious trouble came suddenly out of a conversation we held in bed one night. Some particularly pious phrase of my elder cousin's irritated me extremely, and I avowed outright my entire disbelief in the whole scheme of revealed religion. [...] But it came to me then that the whole scheme of salvation of the Frappes was not simply doubtful, but impossible. I fired this discovery out into the darkness with the greatest promptitude.
My abrupt denials certainly scared my cousin amazingly.
At first they could not understand what I was saying, and when they did I fully believe they expected an instant answer in thunderbolts and flames. They gave me more room in bed forthwith, and then the elder sat up and expressed his sense of my awfulness.
Our little voices went on interminably, and at one stage my cousin got out of bed and made his brother do likewise, and knelt in the night dimness and prayed at me. That I found trying, but I held out valiantly. "Forgive him" said my cousin "he knows not what he sayeth."
"You can pray if you like," I said "but if you're going to cheek me in your prayers I draw the line."
The last I remember of that great discussion was my cousin deploring the fact that he "should ever sleep in the same bed with an Infidel!"

The next day he astonished me by telling the whole business to his father. This was quite outside all my codes. Uncle Nicodemus sprang it upon me at the midday meal.
"You been sayin' queer things, George." he said abruptly. "You better mind what you're saying."
"What did he say, father?" said Mrs. Frapp
"Things I couldn't repeat," said he.
"What things?" I asked hotly.
"Ask 'IM" said my uncle, pointing with his knife to his informant, and making me realize the nature of my offense. My aunt looked at the witness. "Not -?" she framed a question.
"Wuss," said my uncle. "Blarsphemy."
I became an outcast forthwith. At supper that night a gloomy silence was broken by my cousin saying
"E 'it me for telling you, and I turned the other cheek, muvver."
"E's got the evil one be'ind 'im now, a ridin' on 'is back." said my aunt, to the great discomfort of the eldest girl, who sat beside me.[...]
said uncle Nicodemus in gentle tones. "You don't want to wake in 'ell, George, burnin' an' screamin' for ever, do you? You wouldn't like that?
He tried very hard to get me to "jest 'ave a look at the bake'ouse fire" before I retired. "It might move you," he said.
But I didn't expect to have the whole meeting on Sunday turned on to me.
It was. It all comes back to me, that convergence of attention, even the faint leathery smell of its atmosphere returns, and the coarse feel of my aunt's black dress beside me in contact with my hand. I see again the old Welsh milkman "wrestling" with me, they all wrestle with me, by prayer or exhortation. And I was holding out stoutly, though convinced now by the contagion of their universal conviction that by doing so I was certainly and hopelessly damned. I felt that they were right, that God was probably like them, and that on the whole it didn't matter. And to simplify the business thoroughly I had declared I didn't believe anything at all. They confuted me by texts from Scripture which I now perceive was an illegitimate method of reply. When I got home, still impenitent and eternally lost and secretly very lonely and miserable and alarmed, Uncle Nicodemus docked my Sunday pudding.


That happy routine of tormenting young minds with the threat of the bakehouse fire reminds me of something I've repeated on several occasions. Don't ever bitch at me for being mean to the fundies. I owe no courtesies to those threatening me with an eternity of mind-shattering torture if I don't chant along with their mass delusions. I don't care if they smile when they say it.

God is dead.
But oh, Holy Friedrich, it's been a century and a half and the people of the marketplace have yet to hear the news.

I'm off to buy myself some pudding.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Fainting Couch Awareness Month

Been wasting a lot of time recently in Paragon, simply because I'm hopelessly addicted to AoS games (I refuse to call them MOBAs, blllech) so I tend to jump on each new one as if it's not just yet another oversimplified moronic sell-out of what the genre should be. Paragon's officially in "beta" - the kind of beta they take money for - so it's still a patchwork in some ways. It crashes some, it lacks some interface functionality, it's missing some sound effects. The UI is riddled with placeholder graphics. It does, however, have a swear filter. On by default of course.

A motherfucking swear filter. In beta. Well, good to know they took care of the important stuff first.

In other news, an organization whose ass I'm kissing in the real world spammed our e-mail inboxes recently with a dire warning about Cybercrime(tm) which is obviously different from real crime 'cuz y'know... cyber! OMGWTFBBQ teh cyberz iz comin' to getcha! Unsurprisingly this mountain of self-serving paranoia comes stamped "homeland security" like so much of the fearmongering of the past decade and a half, so if you live in the U.S. you likely got the same spam. It's their list of "crimes" which really takes the yellowcake though, listing in the same breath actual crimes like identity theft alongside idiotic media panics like "harassment and bullying" because as though this society weren't apocalyptically degenerating already, now it's a federal crime to call a retarded little shit a retarded little shit.

Yeah, there is such a thing as bullying, the kind with practical real-world repercussions, the kind that yields a collusion of the majority against isolated victims, makes people sit alone at lunch. Just having someone insult you, who's not even in the same room with you, whose presence will fade along with the text in your chat box? That is literally nothing. Grow a fucking backbone you gutless advertisement for abortion! We now live in a society tolerant of any kind of waste, parasitism, backstabbing and manipulation but rushing to its communal fainting couch every time someone might've hurt someone else's feelings. Retards!

I'm a thirty year old playing online games. I've seen your shiteating little ten year old brainless progeny in those games. They deserve a lot worse than anything I can say to them. Your precious little asslicking, 30-IQ dickmonkey subhuman waste of oxygen genetic filth don't need to get protected from insults. They need to get their faces slammed into the wall and be flayed alive for their stupidity. Every shitsucking little troglodyte I see playing a team game only to build up his own score should have rabid dogs set upon him. Their actions, their self-serving sabotage of their teammates have actual repercussions in the medium of those games, which is more than can be said by anything your chat filters block. I want them disemboweled and strung up from skyscrapers as warnings to others of their simian ilk, but in the absence of any actual punishment for their crimes at least admit that the utterly inconsequential verbal response to those crimes should not be punished while the crimes still exist.

In the 1890s it was Victorian morality. Sixty years ago it was Norman Rockwell's whitewashed picket fence wonderland. It seems to take only three generations for anglophone society to become incapable of distinguishing noumenon from phenomenon, to become so complacent as to hold facetious passive-aggressive politeness more valuable than practical competence or cooperation. This current batch started back in the 1990s when they were called feminazis and P.C. thugs and now they're called social justice warriors and regressives, but make no mistake: they're only new deputies of the same old thought police. Mrs. Grundy wears many hats.

And now she's got a government contract and tenure in every university.